There is something about a pair of sunglasses that makes them arguably one of the most essential ‘must-have’ items of all time. Not only are they immensely practical, offering protection from the dangers of the sun, they are an enormously versatile fashion accessory, available in a huge range of styles, colours and prices to suit every pocket. Given their worldwide popularity, sunglass manufacturing has become a very lucrative, and highly competitive industry and while some manufacturers rise and wane in the public affections, there is one company that remains forever synonymous with the eyeglasses that protect our eyes from the rays of the sun: Ray-Ban
Although the Us President, Benjamin Franklin, is often credited with inventing eyeglasses (he was the one who developed the first bifocal lens in the 1780’s), the first reading glasses were developed in Italy, as early as 1260. People continued to be fascinated by all things optical throughout the centuries that followed, then, in the mid-eighteen hundreds British scientist James Ayscough began to research tinted glass, and the possibility that such technology may be used to improve vision impaired eyesight. As successful as he was, it was not until 1929 that the idea that glasses could filter the sun’s rays was given any serious consideration. At that time, U.S. optical company, Foster Grant, began to develop the idea further, until finally, later that same year, the first ever pair of sunglasses were sold from a Woolworth’s store on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Look how far weve come from there.
Recognizing that the new technology could be beneficial to their pilots, the U.S. Army Air Corps asked another prominent American company, Bausch & Lomb, to develop glasses that would protect the eyes from the dangers of the glaring sun, when flying.
It was U.S. eyeglass company, Ray-Ban, who really ran with the concept. In 1936, using the newly available polarized lenses, and a wide frame that offered maximum protection from the sheen of an instrument panel, Ray-Ban began to produce a lens that banned the sun’s rays. Some three years later, this model of sunglass so popular with pilots, became readily available to the American public. Ray-Ban ‘aviators’ were born. And of course everybody wanted a pair.
As Americans came of age, so too did their eyewear. Throughout the war years Ray-Ban continued its working partnership with the Air Force, creating Gradient mirror lenses that managed to be both highly practical and fashionable at the same time. There was something about that American flyer in his tough brown leather flight jacket, whose sunglasses hid his eyes. Ray-Ban had just made sunglasses sexy.
Ubiquitous in the 1950’s, sunglasses became more than just eye protection. Worn by A-list celebrities in Vegas and Hollywood -stars whose every move was scrutinized and emulated all over the country- sunglasses became a fashion accessory, and Ray-Ban was quick to accommodate the growing trend for new designs and colorful frames, which they marketed to women in particular.